It comes around once
a year like any other
with a morning,
noon, afternoon, civil
twilight reminder. The Cuyahoga
River at dusk. A boat docked
in the Flats. An outdoor stage. The opening
act. Guitars. Dance in black
leggings and a royal blue
floral button down baby
doll dress with pockets.
Is it mine? The first
kiss, beer on tap, another kiss,
more beer on tap. Stouffer Inn, magic elevator
carpet. Room service pizza.
Clothes off. Jokes on
all night. Nothing dies
within your reach
again. A child who would be
21 by now is not mine
or yours—is the night’s own.
a nook was a nook, friend
and text were nouns. We were verbs
unnecessary articles. I imagine you
the way I did before
we met—and the whole poem collapsed
under the weight of our naked
words. Truth is
what was stranger than
has been replaced with less than
with middle-aged thighs. And I
recognize this contradicts everything
you presume. Probably. Vain
is still nothing
but a modifier. The end.
Dream. Premonition. Mortality
begins now. I give him an anecdote
in a letter—he’ll never receive
my gift. If equilibrium exists, where’s my
ecstasy? My sister and I watch boats go
up and down the terrifyingly calm
Cuyahoga. Aboard the floating
Heartbreak Hotel, it’s all so close—
the banks of the river, a rail bridge ahead, the crushing
of fantasies. But it doesn’t happen
that way. The world begins to tip in a slowed motion. Sights
and sounds expand beyond their original limits. I watch
from another planet as he walks up the aisle. A kiss,
a hand in hand. Shall I be so bold
as to ask you? He asks. We kiss
as if the elevator door would never open again. Lovely
feet and hands. Brown eyes that turn cloudy
green or bottomless black at will—not his. When
he makes love, he talks. He loves
those vocal chords. I retreat
to the lobby bathroom to check
if I’m still wearing
my own skin. Is it mine? Still? Indeed.
Gravity is overrated.
The details have begun
to fade—was it June
or July? New York or
Cleveland? Who were you
opening for? Was a body
of water involved? I could sprinkle
these memory ashes
downstream into the river
deceit. The truth:
I haven’t forgotten even one
detail. Down to the pocket
in my dress, later chewed and torn
by an innocent Airedale.
The truth? Do memories drown
when they’ve served their purpose?
Is two decades long enough?
What if they float?